Volunteer Service Mission (VSM)

For those who have been reading this blog recently, I have been sharing from the journal I began during my Senior year at Scattergood Friends School (1969).  At this point I’ve shared the writings from that year at Scattergood, and the following year at Earlham College.

Now I’m at the point where I have been writing about joining the Friends Volunteer Service Mission (VSM) in inner city Indianapolis, July 1, 1971. Opening the next volume of journals, I found the following, from the brochure describing VSM. This is a bit out of order since I’ve already begun sharing about VSM, but provides a good description of the program.

As I read this today, and remember my experience at VSM, I’m thinking this is something we should consider implementing again.

Volunteer Service Mission (VSM)

Volunteer Service Mission, a program sponsored by Friends United Meeting (FUM), is designed to provide young people with the opportunity to invest a year or more of their lives in service.

Society needs youth at their best–involved, self-sacrificing, and creative. Lasting effects of youth working with society, devoted to a great cause are written deep in the fabric of world history, of which Jesus and the Disciples, first generation Quakers and the Peace Corps are illustrations.

Volunteer Service Mission adds a new phase to this tradition (of youth in Christian service). It seeks to open a new mission frontier, bringing into creative relationship the spiritual and material needs in our social order and the energy, idealism, intelligence and sacrificial concern of youth. At a time when youth and adults alike tend to feel helpless before the magnitude and complexity of the problems facing us today, we believe that the talent and good-will of youth-power can be mobilized and directed in constructive ministries to the world.

An initial project, for example, is aimed at relating to the ghetto. A volunteer’s first year will be spent in developing trust relationships, and in learning about the key problems and human needs from some of the knowledgeable inner city residents.

Volunteers will secure suitable jobs in the city through social agencies such as welfare, recreational programs, hospitals, Goodwill Industries, OEO, etc, while living in a close-knit community within the ghetto. Participants continuing a second year, C.O.’s or other volunteers, may be able to determine their own job description. Funds earned will be pooled and subsistence wages returned from the pool to the participants. Through such voluntary and sacrificial service sufficient funds will be accumulated to support some full-time unsalaried workers in neighborhood development.

The challenge of our society which has frequently tended to alienate and isolate our youth is to enlist them to participate in the healing, reconciling, building tasks before us. Spiritually motivated and committed young people have provided the leadership for many of the redemptive moments in history.


  1. To provide the reconciling, caring presence of the Church in mission
  2. To express in tangible ways one’s personal commitment to Christ
  3. To provide a means of furthering personal and social growth
  4. To solve problems together while living in community
  5. To acquire relational skills with those of different cultures and different opinions
  6. To express gratitude to God in service for the endless privileges he has given

Jeff, Paul and Connie at Second Friends VSM

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Jeff at Volunteer Service Mission 1971


Neighborhood kids, Volunteer Service Mission, Second Friends

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Jeff working as respiratory therapist at Methodist Hospital during involvement in VSM

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